What do you call a small quantity of butter?

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yoyo53

Member
Hebrew,German
<< Moderator's note.
This thread has been created from off-topic posts found in
butter.
There, the topic is the term for the amount of butter that we buy.
Here, the topic is the term for a smaller amount of butter used for ...
panj>>



American cookbooks talk about a STICK of butter. It is, I believe, 1/4 cups worth.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    A 1/4 pound stick may be called a cube of butter in AE. You will see this in recipes, for instance. "Add 1/2 cube of butter" (=1/8 pound).

    Edit: We also call them "sticks", as Yoyo says. However, a stick/cube measures 1/2 a cup.
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    If I were served butter at a dinner table, and the butter had been divided into very small, flat squares (or perhaps small molded shapes) so that one of them would be the appropriate amount to spread on a slice of bread, I would call that small piece of butter a "pat of butter".

    We would call that a "knob of butter".
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    << Irrelevant personal comment deleted by moderator >>

    For my part, I have never heard anyone ever speak of a "knob of butter", and I believe most other speakers of AE would also find the phrase very strange. This thread is the first place I have ever seen the term "knob" used in connection with butter.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I've heard of "knob" before, but only as a small measurement in cooking, as in "place a knob of butter on top of each pancake stack before serving" or "melt a knob of butter in the pan."

    It certainly doesn't have anything to do with sticks of butter, as far as I know.
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    I found this for you GreenWhiteBlue.

    A knob of butter is a British term denoting some butter, and its use is sadly declining as zealous editors force more precision and science into our recipes and cookbooks. Even the loosest British cooks (and we mean that in the nice way) might get away with telling you to add a knob of butter on a television program. But if their cookbooks are published in the States, you can bet someone will have translated all those knobs into precise measurements.
    I hope its not too much to quote.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Oh yes, we talk about knobs (of butter) all the time over here:)

    There's also pat of butter (but I'm no food expert so can't elaborate on how big a knob that might be).
     

    Josh_

    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    A 1/4 pound stick may be called a cube of butter in AE. You will see this in recipes, for instance. "Add 1/2 cube of butter" (=1/8 pound).
    Actually, I believe that should be 1/4 of a stick of butter (1 oz.), so called because if you cut the stick into fourths each one is a perfect cube.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Actually, I believe that should be 1/4 of a stick of butter (1 oz.), so called because if you cut the stick into fourths each one is a perfect cube.
    Josh, a Google search shows that "cube" can be used as you say. This is a meaning I hadn't heard before. I have always heard it used as I describe above.

    And it is still true that "cube" is commonly used as alternative term for stick, that is, for a 1/4 pound of butter. See the recipes on this page, for instance. This use also can be found in printed recipes and in common speech.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Actually, I believe that should be 1/4 of a stick of butter (1 oz.), so called because if you cut the stick into fourths each one is a perfect cube.
    I have never come across this idea in the UK.
    Oh yes, we talk about knobs (of butter) all the time over here:)

    There's also pat of butter (but I'm no food expert so can't elaborate on how big a knob that might be).
    Indeed, I think we keep these measures deliberately vague. One man's knob is another man's pat.
     

    Josh_

    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    Josh, a Google search show that "cube" can be used as you say. This is a meaning I hadn't heard before. I have always heard it used as I describe above.

    And it is still true that "cube" is commonly used as alternative term for stick that is, for a 1/4 pound of butter. See the recipes on this page, for instance. This use also can be found in printed recipes and in common speech.
    I've never heard a stick of butter referred to as a cube. Admittedly, I don't cook much, though. I just think it odd since a stick of butter is a rectangular shape, and not a cube. There is no logical reason for a rectangular stick of butter to be referred to as a cube. My guess is that the term "a cube of butter" started out as I said (a 1/4 of a stick) but then later began being applied to the entire stick. Who knows.
     

    lablady

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    As an avid cook, I am certain I learned that a cube of butter is a full stick (1/4 pound, 1/2 cup, or 8 Tablespoons). I am positive my mother and my grandmother used "cube" in that way. I have my grandmother's old recipe box containing a number of recipes that use "cube" as the quantity (along with a few other imprecise measurements such as dash, dollop, smidgeon, and "just a bit"). Thank you Cagey, for your post and the link. Otherwise, I'd think either my memory or my grandmother's recipe box was faulty. :D

    Now that I've been inspired to think about it, I have no idea why a stick of butter was called a cube. Josh's cube-shaped 1/4 of a stick (2 Tablespoons) is logical. I did find a few Internet sources that use cube to mean stick. Here is one of them.
    A 'stick' or 'cube' or 'square' of butter or margarine is equal to 1/2 cup US or 4 ounces or approximately 100 grams. There are 8 Tbsp. to each 1/4 pound 'stick' of butter or margarine.
    source (scroll down to "Fats").

    Most recipes now have more precise measurements, possibly to avoid the ambiguity. :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Here is a speculative explanation of cube. When I was a child, and dinosaurs stalked the earth, we sometime bought butter at a local farm. A pound of butter came in cube shaped blocks. Cut that into four equal portions, of four ounces each, and you have four smaller cubes. This may all be faulty memory. Take it for what it may be worth, and feel free to add a dash of
    scepticism or a smidgen of a buttery smile.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I am mildly amazed at all this: amazed that Americans should be so 'anal' with their sticks while we Brits are so casual with our knobs.
     

    Grop

    Senior Member
    français
    Would a knob of butter be the same as what we call a "hazelnut" of butter in French? (that is, a piece of butter the size of a hazelnut, for use in a recipe).
    I think so: I understand that for many cooks its size is quite different from real hazelnuts.

    (Which is a good thing, otherwise one would need odd hazelnut-shaped tools to measure knobs ;)).
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    I am mildly amazed at all this: amazed that Americans should be so 'anal' with their sticks while we Brits are so casual with our knobs. ... Ok, that's enough now, ewie
    With brass knobs on, ewie, AND yoyo53... :D
    a "hazelnut" of butter
    Weight-watchers might be happy with that amount, but to me that sounds more like a smidgeon (about a teaspoon). To me, a knob of butter is at least a good-sized tablespoon, with knobs on... ;)

    /Wilma
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    So what size is a knob, then?
    Is J-M's hazelnut-sized piece the size of a hazelnut with the shell or without the shell? Is that a knob? I think that's a bit small to be a knob.
    My knob would be about the size of a substantial walnut, or a 2.5cm (1 inch) cube - about 20g.
     

    katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    So what size is a knob, then?
    Is J-M's hazelnut-sized piece the size of a hazelnut with the shell or without the shell? Is that a knob? I think that's a bit small to be a knob.
    My knob would be about the size of a substantial walnut, or a 2.5cm (1 inch) cube - about 20g.
    My knob would be about the same size as a door knob!. (about a teaspoon full), weighing approx. 5mg :D
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    a smidgeon (about a teaspoon).

    I wonder. If I used a smidgeon of salt or pepper, it would certainly be smaller than that, nearer a "pinch"
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    My aunt, who immigrated here from England along with her family, used to say "a screed" for a very small amount, including butter, cream, sugar, or jam. "Just a screed of butter, dear". :) It makes me smile to hear her say that in my mind.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    So what size is a knob, then?

    My knob would be about the size of a substantial walnut, or a 2.5cm (1 inch) cube - about 20g.
    My knob would be about the same size as a door knob!. (about a teaspoon full), weighing approx. 5mg :D
    Those seem like teeny-weeny knobs to me ~ hardly worth dirtying a spoon with. I'd undoubtedly use either a dessert spoon or even a tablespoon ~ Panjo's and Katie's knobs I'd probably call smears.
    Mind you, my cooking is always atrocious.

    EDIT: Oh yes: by the way, Katie, do you live in a doll's house or something? ~ your doorknobs are tiny.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Isn't that called a mousetrap?:(
    Hehe, maybe for baby mice, but an ordinary mousetrap is about 5 x 10 cm (or approx. 2 x 4 inches).
    I'd like to see Katie's 5 mg teaspoon, but I fear I would need a microscope... :D

    The eternal metric/imperial confusion is still at large, I take it... At least teaspoons and tablespoons are standardised in some countries, to 5 and 15 ml, so why not take this discussion to the ISO board and have knobs, smidgeons and other arbitrary 'measurements' standardised, too? ;)

    /Wilma
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I am mildly amazed at all this: amazed that Americans should be so 'anal' with their sticks while we Brits are so casual with our knobs.
    We often use a "schmear" of butter (or more likely cream cheese). But also, we use a schmear of butter on the pan before frying.


    (Not very anal retentive there is it?)
     
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